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How to use the Finder’s Connect to Server window

51407 101728 webdav


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macOS Finder provides a variety of easy server connection options. Here’s how to use the Connect to Server window in the Finder to easily mount and use remote network volumes as if they were local drives.

Apple’s macOS offers one of the easiest server communication interfaces of any major operating system. You can connect to LAN servers, VPN servers, FTP/SFTP, SFTP over HTTP, web servers, Windows SMB shares, NAS, some cloud servers, WebDAV, and more. The Connect to Sever window allows you to view remote desktops using the VNC protocol.

In most cases, once connected to the server, Finder displays a new window with its contents just as if it were a local volume.

In all cases to get started, click in the Finder on the Go menu and select “Connect to Server…” at the bottom of the list. This opens the Connect to Server window. Enter the server address to connect to in the upper field of this window.

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Connecting

The simplest and first example is connecting to a LAN server on your local network. The server must use one of the above protocols.

Click the Browse button in the Server Connection window. This opens a Finder window called “Network” which displays all known local servers that your Mac can connect to on your network. Your Mac is also listed – known as localhost in networking parlance. Double-clicking your Mac’s name in the window will bring up a list of all installed volumes and any shared folders on your Mac.

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For all other local servers connected to the network, you will then be presented with a login window asking for the username and password for an account on that server, or guest. You can also save the password locally by checking the “Remember this password in my keychain” checkbox so that you don’t have to enter the password next time.

In the case of anonymous FTP servers, you do not need to enter a password.

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Once authenticated, a Finder network volume icon will appear on your desktop, and a new window will open showing the server’s file system or volume as if it were a local drive. You can perform most operations on the network as if it were a local storage device – assuming you have the correct access permissions.

There is also a “disconnect” button that separates the server volume from the desktop when clicked. You can also unmount the server volume by right-clicking or holding the Control key and choosing Eject from the Finder pop-up menu, or by dragging it to the Trash in the Dock.

For remote servers, you can use any of the above network protocols. To do this, enter the protocol abbreviation followed by “://” in the upper field of the Connect to Server window followed by the name or IP address of the remote server, then click the Connect button.

If the server uses a port assigned to a specific protocol, insert it at the end of the server address preceded by a colon. Here are some examples:

  • ftp://ftp.apple.asimov.net – a standard FTP connection.
  • https://ftp.apple.asimov.net/ – Same as above but FTP over HTTP is secure using SSL.
  • https://sampleserver.somenetwork.com:20821 – A fictional web server in the domain somenetwork.com is listening on port 20821 for incoming HTTP connection requests.
  • smb://192.68.0.1 – Address of a local Windows SMB share on a local Windows computer.
  • vnc://192.68.0.76 – address of a local computer using any operating system running the standard VNC screen sharing protocol.
  • https://download.info.apple.com – Standard HTTP + SSL web connection, assuming the server has some type of file sharing enabled – or a collaborative WebDAV server.

In the case of HTTP servers that are also running WebDAV, you may get a warning certificate telling you that your Mac thinks the server may be bogus or masquerading as a WebDAV server. If you are sure of the legitimacy of the server, click the Continue button.

You can also view the server’s certificate details and always trust it in the future by clicking the Always Trust checkbox after clicking the Show Certificate button.

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Once the server login is successful, a new volume and a Finder window will appear on your desktop. In the example case of ftp://ftp.apple.asimov.net:

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For a cleaner, easier-to-read menu view in the new server window, press Command-T, then Command-2 on your keyboard. This switches to list view and hides the window’s toolbar. You now have a window into the remote server’s file system. You can perform most Finder operations on a server volume just as you would on a local drive volume. But the permissions may or may not be restricted.

Another quick time-saving tip: Once you mount a server volume, you can create an alias for it on your desktop or on any disk or folder by selecting the server volume on your desktop, holding down the Command option, and then dragging to the desktop or drive location post discs. This results in an alias file with the same name as the server volume. To remount the volume later, just double-click the alias.

In the case of a server running VNC, once connected, the hidden macOS screen sharing app will begin displaying the remote computer’s desktop. You can switch in and out of Screen Sharing to other Mac apps just as you would any other Mac app. To connect to another Mac via VNC, screen sharing must be turned on in the system settings.

The speed of re-drawing windows will depend on the speed of your network connection.

To end the VNC connection, simply click the Close screen sharing windows button.

VNC servers can be configured in a variety of ways and may or may not be configured to require a password – in which case you will first be required to enter it as you did in the FTP examples above.

Corporate connections or VPN

Remote connections in corporate VPNs are not much different from the above, unless your company uses a dedicated firewall hardware and/or a dedicated network protocol. In most cases, once your Mac’s VPN connection is established, all other standard protocol connections should be the same as your local connections or Internet connections.

The only usual difference, if any at all, is a dedicated port number, which we covered above, or in some cases the code for a radio- or satellite-controlled remote key. VPNs provide the added advantage of encrypting most network communications.

Favorite

For any server you enter in the Connect to Server window, click the small “+” button in the lower left corner of the window to add it to your Favorites list. The next time you open the window, your favorites are displayed in the list. Simply double-click one of them to start a new connection.

To remove servers from the favorites list, select the servers you want to remove, then click the “-” button.

You can also view all recent servers by clicking the small pop-up arrow icon on the right side of the server address field. To clear the list of recent servers, click on the small “…” with a circle symbol next to the “-” button and select “Clear Recent Servers” from the pop-up menu.

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It’s possible to connect to servers that use foreign file systems that macOS doesn’t understand—assuming you have the appropriate third-party Mac networking software and extensions installed. But we will touch on that in a later article.